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Guide Frequently Asked Questions about the Commission on Judicial Conduct

A summary of frequently asked questions about CJC jurisdiction and procedure.

Table of Contents

What is the process for filing a complaint against a judge?

Either fill out the complaint form provided on this website and mail it to the CJC's office or submit your complaint directly through this website using the online complaint form. If you have any questions, call the CJC's office at 617-725-8050, and a staff member will assist you.

Does the CJC require that I use the complaint form?

No. A letter naming the judge, describing the allegations of misconduct in detail, giving the date[s] of the alleged misconduct, and providing the name and docket number of the case (if any) is sufficient.

Can I attach supporting documents?


Yes, you can. Supporting documentation can be helpful.  However, do not rely on attachments to state the alleged misconduct. It is important for you to state, as clearly and as concisely as possible, your allegations in the space provided on the complaint form.

Can I use one complaint form to file complaints against several judges at once?

No. Please file a separate complaint form for each judge against whom you wish to submit a complaint.

What if I am not sure that the judge's conduct constitutes judicial misconduct?

The Code of Judicial Conduct describes what constitutes misconduct for Massachusetts judges. If after reading it, you have any questions, a staff member at the CJC will answer your questions.

Can I file a complaint against a federal judge with the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct?

No, the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct only has jurisdiction over Massachusetts state judges. To file a complaint against a federal judge, contact the federal court where the judge sits.

Must the judge disqualify himself or herself from my case if I file a complaint?

No. Filing a complaint has no bearing on whether or not the judge continues hearing your case.

Will the judge know that I filed a complaint?

Yes. If the Commission investigates your complaint, the judge is given notice of the complaint and an opportunity to respond to the allegations you made. 

In very limited circumstances, where there is a substantial danger of reprisal or retaliation by the judge against a complainant or any other person mentioned in the complaint, the CJC may decide to withhold notice of the complaint from the judge until the risk of reprisal ends.

The judge's decision was wrong. Can I change it or get it overturned by filing a complaint?

No. Nothing the CJC can do will affect or overturn any decisions a judge has already made in a case. 

The CJC is not a court and has no authority to grant relief to litigants. CJC proceedings are not a substitute for an appeal. The CJC cannot advise you about any matter you may have pending in court or give you any other legal advice. If you wish to have a judge's decision reviewed or reversed, you may wish to consult an attorney to review your right to appeal the decision in your case.

What can the CJC do if it finds that judicial misconduct occurred?

If the CJC finds that a judge has committed judicial misconduct, it may, with the consent of the judge, dispose of a complaint through an Agreed Disposition.  An Agreed Disposition can take the form of an Information, an Admonition, or a Private Reprimand.  A judge may also agree to retire voluntarily pursuant to an Agreed Disposition.  An Agreed Disposition often includes a period of monitoring and conditions on the judge's conduct. These conditions can include professional counseling and the assignment of a mentor judge.  

Sometimes, an Agreed Disposition is not the appropriate resolution of a complaint.  In such a circumstance, the CJC may issue Formal Charges against a judge and proceed to a public hearing. If, after the hearing, a majority of the members of the CJC agree that the judge should be disciplined, the CJC may recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court the following sanctions:

   (1) retirement;
   (2) imposition of discipline as an attorney;
   (3) imposition of limitations or conditions on the performance of judicial duties;
   (4) public or private reprimand or censure;
   (5) imposition of a fine;
   (6) assessment of costs and expenses;
   (7) imposition of any other sanction which is reasonable and lawful.

Even where there is a determination that a judge has committed misconduct, it is not within the power of the CJC to reverse a judge's legal decisions.  

Will I hear from the CJC after it investigates my complaint?

Yes. The Commission is required to inform complainants of the disposition of their complaints.

How long do I have to file a complaint?

A complaint should be filed within one year of the occurrence of the alleged misconduct. If it is longer than that, you should explain why in your complaint.

Is there any use in having more than one person file a complaint about the same alleged misconduct?

No. Allegations of judicial misconduct will be investigated in the same manner whether one person or a hundred make them. All that matters is that the allegations be made clearly and fully. However, if more than one person witnessed the alleged misconduct, be sure to list the names and contact information for all witnesses in your complaint.